Problems of Genesis - Problems of Epistemology

Adlerian Psychotherapist (Individual Psychology), Director of the Clinic for Medico-Psychology and Psychotherapy of the University of Graz (Austria)

Abstract of the lecture at the 10th Scientific Convention of the
Society for Gestalt Theory and its Applications (GTA)
Vienna/Austria, March 1997

Genesis as a typically human development of expressing and accounting for personal life will be discussed in this lecture as a process of human cognition.

Historically we are well acquainted with the Gestalt circle of 'genesis and cognition' resp. 'movement and perception' (V. WEIZSÄCKER) as a pathic manifestation in the development of European culture. Nonetheless we are not too eager to envisage problems of genesis clearly and enthusiastically as problems of cognition and - vice versa - problems of cognition as problems of genesis. This might well be due to the fact that we sense a basic pattern of human passion hidden in this tragic feed-back as well as man's potential and fate directed to both bonding and uniqueness.

More and more distinctly the current discussion on psychotherapy, the competition between different theories on the mind-body problem is opening a way to a revision of 'Eros', the classical notion of cognition. In psychotherapy there is a more concrete correspondence between theory of science and method of cognition than in other disciplines; this is due to the fact that in psychotherapy as a science the issue of examination is nothing else than man himself as a cognizant, suffering, passionate being. Two classical ideas are connected to this postulate and - from the point of view of psychotherapy - result in a revision of the notion of cognition:

1. The idea of oneness resp. unity of human cognition:
Cognition is passionate integration of body, mind and soul. Cognition requires uniting laws, rules and limitations of corporeal reality with all the potentiality of openness, freedom and autonomy of mind and the pathic energy of psyche. The classical oneness of cognition and eros is visible in this idea.

Where this pathic unity is not achieved we speak of disease, crisis and illness.

2. The idea of a complemental methodology

Cognition means to integrate, reflect upon and transcend all primary methods of cognition. According to present-day state of science-theoretical discussion there are four primary methods of cognition: the phenomenological, the dialectic, the empiric-analytical, and the hermeneutic method (H. SEIFFERT, R. LAY, R. VOGT, P. HAHN). Each of these methods turns out to be a specific way to clarify a specific temporal and spatial dimension of human existence.

Cognition - understood as opening a path to freedom and responsibility of man - therefore acquires a specific meaning: oneness of phenomenologically-timeless clarification of existence, dialectical comprehension of the subject in the here and now and empiric-analytical specification of the object, directed to a hermeneutic general interpretation.

Problems of genesis emerge where the development of specific methods of cognition or the integration with other methods of cognition is neglected. A one-sided or too narrow view of oneself and the world (as problems of autistic cognition) results in problems of genesis. In all suffering, crises and illness we envisage this problem of personal cognition as a problem of genesis and an appeal to responsibility.

GEBSATTEL understood illness as an inhibition of genesis. I propose to distinguish and pathically adjoin illnesses according to the following methods of cognition:

Anthropological distinction of illnesses

Dimensions of being - Dimensions of cognition

1. Existence - Phenomenological method of cognition
2. Structure - Dialectic method of cognition
3. Constitution - Empiric-analytical method of cognition
4. Function - Hermeneutic method of cognition

Ilness as an eruption of - not yet accounted for - human creativity will continue to be an inhibition of genesis untill the grievance formulated by this illness is recognized and thereby becomes open for taking responsibility. Mastering illness can be understood as human genesis; it requires to integrate corporeal, psychical and mental motion (unsettling) and painful perception in the direction of consistent cognition. It is interesting that at this point the knowledge of classical philosophy and the views of modern medical research on the immune system are converging.

This is a provisional abstract of the lecture. The final and complete version has been published in German in GTA's journal GESTALT THEORY.

Back to conference program 1997 in English.
Zum Tagungsprogramm 1997 in Deutsch.

Click here for a list of on-line abstracts of lectures at the Scientific Conventions of the GTA since 1997

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Most recent revision: 19.8.2000